Nigerian Teachers’ Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Comparative Study of Teachers from Urban and Rural areas of Lagos State

Remi Odunsi, David Preece, Philip Garner


Purpose: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability characterised by difficulties in social interaction and social communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Despite its prevalence the world over, there is a paucity of research in some areas such as education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper attempts to address the gap by exploring teachers’ understanding of ASD in Nigeria.

Method: Using an adapted version of the Knowledge About Childhood Autism Among Health Workers (KCAHW) questionnaire (Bakare et al, 2008), a survey was conducted among 177 mainstream primary teachers from Lagos State (112 from eleven urban schools and 65 from four rural schools).

Results: The total mean score on the Adapted KCAHW questionnaire among all the participating teachers was 10.81 ± 4.13 out of a possible total of 16. The mean score for urban teachers was 11.21 ± 4.31, while the mean score for rural teachers was 10.11 ± 3.75. In total, 46% of the urban teachers and 31% of the rural teachers demonstrated a generally accurate knowledge of ASD, with 15% (23 urban teachers and 4 rural teachers) of the sample answering all questions correctly.  Over 50% of urban teachers and almost 70% of rural teachers surveyed had only a low or moderate understanding of ASD.

Conclusions: This research supports previous studies that identified low professional knowledge and understanding of ASD, and a need for improved professional education and training. 

Limitations: The focus was on only one state within Nigeria, and only on mainstream primary schools. Further research is necessary across the educational age range as well as different geographical areas in the country.


Education; knowledge

Full Text:



Ajuwon P (2008). Inclusive education for students with disabilities in Nigeria: Benefits, challenges and policy implications. International Journal of Special Education; 23(3): 11-16.

Alqahtani MMJ (2012). Understanding autism in Saudi Arabia: A qualitative analysis of the community and cultural context. Journal of Paediatric Neurology; 10(1): 15-22.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th Edition – DSM-5. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Audu EIV, Egbochuko OE (2010). Autism among primary school pupils in Benin metropolis: implications for counselling. Edo Journal of Counselling; 3(2): 257-268.

Baird G, Simonoff E, Pickles A, Chandler S, Loucas T, Meldrum D, Charman T (2006). Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South Thames: the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP). Lancet; 368(9531): 210-215.

Bakare MO, Ebigbo PO, Agomoh AO, Menkiti NC (2008). Knowledge about childhood autism among health workers (KCAHW) questionnaire: description, reliability and internal consistency. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health; 4(17).

Bakare MO, Agomoh AO, Ebigbo PO, Eaton, J, Okonkwo KO, Onwukwe JU, Onyeama GM (2009a). Etiological explanation, treatability and preventability of childhood autism: a survey of Nigerian healthcare workers' opinion. Annals of General Psychiatry; 8(6).

Bakare MO, Ebigbo PO, Agomoh AO, Eaton J, Onyeama GM, Okonkwo KO, Onwkwe JU, Igwe MN, Orovwigho AO, Aguocha CM (2009b). Knowledge about childhood autism and opinion among healthcare workers on availability of facilities and law caring for the needs and rights of children with childhood autism and other developmental disorders in Nigeria. BMC Pediatrics; 9(12).

Bakare MO, Munir KM (2011a). Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Africa: a perspective. African Journal of Psychiatry; 14(3):208-210.

Bakare MO, Munir KM (2011b). Excess of non-verbal cases of autism spectrum disorders presenting to orthodox clinical practice in Africa – a trend possibly resulting from late diagnosis and intervention. South African Journal of Psychiatry; 17(4): 118-120.

Bakare MO, Ebigbo PO, Ubochi VN (2012). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among Nigerian children with intellectual disability: a stopgap assessment. Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved; 23(2): 513-518.

Barson C (2010). Education. In Roth I (Ed) The Autism Spectrum in the 21st Century: exploring psychology, biology and practice. London: Jessica Kingsley/Open University: 211-244.

Bello-Mojeed M, Ani C, Lagunju I, Omigbodum O (2016). Feasibility of parent-mediated behavioural intervention for behavioural problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Nigeria: a pilot study. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health; 10(28).

British Educational Research Association (2011). BERA Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. London: BERA.

Chinawa JM, Manyike PC, Aniwada EC, Chinawa AT, Obu HA, Odetunde OI, Nwokocha AR, Ibekwe RR (2016). Prevalence and socioeconomic correlates of autism among children attending primary and secondary schools in south east Nigeria. African Health Sciences; 16(4).

Cimpric A (2010). Children Accused of Witchcraft: an anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa.Dakar: UNICEFWCARO.

Denkyirah AM, Agbeke WK (2010). Strategies for transitioning pre-schoolers with autism spectrum disorders to kindergarten. Early Childhood Education Journal; 38(4): 265-270.

Elsabbagh M, Divan G, Koh Y, Kim YS, Kauchali S, Marcin C, Montiel-Nava C, Patel V, Paula CS, Wang C, Yasamy MT, Fombonne E (2012). Global prevalence of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. Autism Research; 5(3): 160-179.

Engstrand RZ, Pettersson L (2014). Inclusion of preschool children with autism in Sweden: attitudes and perceived efficacy of preschool teachers. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs; 14(3): 170-179.

Eseigbe EE, Nuhu FT, Sheikh TL, Eseigbe P, Sanni KA, Olisah VA (2015). Knowledge of childhood autism and challenges of management among medical doctors in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria. Autism Research and Treatment; Vol 2015, Article ID 892301.

Franz L, Chambers M, von Isenburg N, de Vries PJ (2017). Autism spectrum disorder in sub-Saharan Africa: a comprehensive scoping review. Autism Research; 10(5): 723-749.

Guldberg K, Parson S, MacLeod A, Jones G, Prunty A, Balfe T (2011).

Implications for practice from ‘International review of the evidence on best practice in educational provision for children on the autism spectrum’. European Journal of Special Needs Education; 26(1): 65-70.

Gunn KCM, Delafield-Butt JT (2016). Teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with restricted interests: a review of evidence for best practice. Review of Educational Research; 86(2): 408-430.

Heidgerken A, Geffken G, Modi A, Frakey L (2005). A survey of autism knowledge in a health care setting. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 35(3): 323-330.

Helps S, Newsom-Davis IC, Callias M (1999). Autism: The teacher’s view. Autism; 3(3): 287-298.

Igwe MN, Bakare MO, Agomoh AO, Onyeama GM, Okonkwo KO (2010). Factors influencing knowledge about childhood autism among final year undergraduate medical, nursing and psychology students of University of Nigeria, Enugu State, Nigeria. Italian Journal of Pediatrics; 36(44).

Igwe MN, Ahanotu AC, Bakare MO, Achor JU, Igwe C (2011). Assessment of knowledge about childhood autism among paediatric and psychiatric nurses in Ebonyi state, Nigeria. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health; 5(1).

Imam H (2012). Educational policy in Nigeria from the colonial era to the post-independence period. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education; 4(1): 181-204.

Imran N, Chaudry MR, Azeem MW, Bhatti MR, Choudhary ZI, Cheema MA (2011). A survey of autism knowledge and attitudes among the healthcare professionals in Lahore, Pakistan. BMC Pediatrics, 11: 107.

Jennett HK, Harris SL, Mesibov GB (2003). Commitment to philosophy, teacher efficacy and burnout among teachers of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 33(6): 583-594.

Johnson P, Porter K, McPherson I (2013). Autism knowledge among pre-service teachers specialised in children birth through age five: Implications for health education. American Journal of Health Education; 43 (5): 279-287.

Jones G, English A, Guldberg K, Jordan R, Richardson P, Waltz M (2008). Educational provision for children and young people on the autism spectrum living in England: A review of current practice, issues and challenges. London: Autism Education Trust.

Lagunju A, Bella-Awusah TT, Omigbodun OO (2014). Autistic disorder in Nigeria: Profile and challenges to management. Epilepsy and Behaviour; 39 (October): 126-129.

Lai D, Tseng Y, Hou Y, Guo H (2012). Gender and geographic differences in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in children: analysis of data from the national disability registry of Taiwan. Research in Developmental Disabilities; 33(3): 909-915.

Leblanc L, Richardson W, Burns KA (2009). Autism spectrum disorder and the inclusive classroom: effective training to enhance knowledge of ASD and evidence-based practices. Teacher Education and Special Education; 32(2): 166-179.

Mavropoulou S, Padeliadu S (2000). Greek teachers’ perceptions of autism and implications for educational practice: a preliminary analysis. Autism; 4(2): 173-184.

Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (2004). National policy on education. Section 10: Special Needs Education. Abuja, Nigeria.

Obiyo NO, Etonyeaku EAC, Ofoegbu T (2013). The use of ICT as an integral teaching and learning tool for children with autism: a challenge for Nigeria education system. Journal of Education and Practice; 4(23): 63-69.

Okey-Martins Nkwolo M (2015). Autism in Nigeria: my side of the story. Available from: [Accessed on 1 May 2017

Preece D, Jordan R (2007). Social workers’ understanding of autistic spectrum disorders: an exploratory investigation, British Journal of Social Work; 37(5): 925-936.

Rajaratnam JK, Marcus JR, Flaxman AD, Wang H, Levin-Rector A, Dwyer L, Costa M, Lopez AD, Murray CJL (2010). Neonatal, post-neonatal, childhood and under-5 mortality for 187 countries, 1970-2010: A systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4. Lancet; 375 (9730): 1988-2008.

Ruble LA, Usher EL, McGrew JH (2011). Preliminary investigation of the sources of self-efficacy among teachers of students with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities ;26(2): 67-74.

Ruparelia K, Abubakar A, Badoe E, Bakare M, Visser K, Chugani DC, Chugani TH, Donald KA, Wilmshurst JM, Shih A, Skuse D, Newton CR (2016). Autism spectrum disorders in Africa: current challenges in identification, assessment, and treatment: a report on the International Child Neurology Association Meeting on ASD in Africa, Ghana, April 3-5, 2014. Journal of Child Neurology; 31(8): 1018-1026.

Scherzer AL, Chagan M, Kauchali S, Susser E (2012). Global perspective on early diagnosis and intervention for children with developmental delays and disabilities. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology; 54(12): 1079-1084.

Syriopoulou-Delli CK, Cassimos DC, Tripsianis GI, Polychronopoulou SA (2012). Teachers’ perceptions regarding the management of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 42(5): 755-768.

Tilahun D, Hanlon C, Fedaku A, Tekola B, Baheretibeb Y, Hoeksra R (2016). Stigma, explanatory models and unmet needs of caregivers of children with developmental disorders in a low-income African country: a cross-sectional facility-based survey. BMC Health Services Research; 16(152).

United Nations Children’s Fund - UNICEF: Division of Data, Research & Policy (2014). Generation 2030 Africa. New York: UNICEF.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation -UNESCO (1994). Salamanca Statement on Principles, Policy and Practice in Special Needs Education. Paris: UNESCO.

World Education News and Reviews (2017). Education in Nigeria. Available from: [Accessed on 29 April 2017]

Worldometers (2017). Nigeria Population Live. Available from: [Accessed on 29 April 2017]

Zhang W, Mason AE, Boyd B, Sikich L, Baranek G (2017). A rural-urban comparison in emergency department visits for U.S. children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 47(3): 590-598.


Copyright (c) 2017 Remi Odunsi, David Preece, Philip Garner

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Supported by:


© Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development